Arkansas Heritage Month – LR Mayor Taylor and a Municipal Auditorium

Taylor AuditIn anticipation of the November 2016 reopening of Robinson Center Music Hall, this week’s Arkansas Heritage Month entries look at seven Little Rock Mayors who worked on proposals for a municipal auditorium between 1904 and 1940.

Charles Taylor became Little Rock’s mayor in April 1911.  He inherited the temporary auditorium that was already showing signs of wear and tear after four years.  Throughout the eight years he was in office, he and the City Council wrestled with the question of what to do about the auditorium.

Time and time again, there would be calls to tear the building down. Its proximity to the 1913 fire station was causing the insurance rates on that building to be increased. It was viewed as structurally unsound and had outlived its useful life.  However, without that building, there would be no public space for conventions and community meetings.  While the Hotel Marion offered convention facilities in its ballroom, it did not necessarily lend itself to trade shows. In addition, as a private entity, it was able to set its own rules without necessary regard to the general public.

A 1913 proposal by planner John Nolen had called for an auditorium to be built on a new plaza area near City Hall.  Due to funding issues, that plan never gained traction, despite repeated attempts by its backers to push for it.

At the time he left office in April 1919, Mayor Taylor had still not been able to solve the problem of a municipal auditorium.

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Little Rock Look Back: J. N. Heiskell

At the age of 87, J. N. Heiskell in 1960.

At the age of 87, J. N. Heiskell in 1960.

John Netherland (J. N.) Heiskell served as editor of the Arkansas Gazette for more than seventy years.

He was born on November 2, 1872, in Rogersville, Tennessee, to Carrick White Heiskell and Eliza Ayre Netherland Heiskell. He entered the University of Tennessee at Knoxville before his eighteenth birthday and graduated in three years at the head of his class on June 7, 1893.

His early journalism career included jobs with newspapers in Knoxville and Memphis and with the Associated Press in Chicago and Louisville. On June 17, 1902, Heiskell’s family bought controlling interest in the Arkansas Gazette. Heiskell became the editor, and his brother, Fred, became managing editor.

Governor George Donaghey appointed Heiskell to succeed Jeff Davis in the United States Senate after Davis’s death in office. Heiskell served from January 6, 1913, until January 29, 1913, when a successor was elected.

On June 28, 1910, Heiskell married Wilhelmina Mann, daughter of the nationally prominent architect, George R. Mann. The couple had four children: Elizabeth, Louise, John N. Jr., and Carrick.

In 1907, he joined a successful effort to build the city’s first public library. He served on the library board from that year until his death and was issued the first library card.  He also served on the City’s Planning Commission for decades.

In 1912, he was instrumental in bringing John Nolen to Little Rock to devise a park plan. Heiskell was also largely responsible for the location of Robinson Auditorium. When City Council members had competing locations, he advocated for the corner of Markham and Broadway. And kept at it until the site was selected.

In the paper and in his own personal opinions, he crusaded on a variety of progressive causes.  Perhaps the most famous was the Gazette’s stance in the 1957 Central High desegregation crisis.  It was for this effort that the paper received two Pulitzer Prizes.

Although Heiskell stopped going to the office at age ninety-nine, he continued to take an active interest in the newspaper. He began by having a copy of the newspaper delivered to his home by messenger as soon as it came off the press each night. Eventually, he switched to having his secretary call him daily at his home and read the entire newspaper to him. He operated on the premise that “anyone who runs a newspaper needs to know what’s in it, even to the classified ads.”

A few weeks after turning 100, Heiskell died of congestive heart failure brought on by arteriosclerosis on December 28, 1972. He is buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery.  Interestingly, he is buried in the same cemetery as two of his most notable adversaries: Governor Jeff Davis, and segregationist Congressman Dale Alford.

Little Rock Look Back: J. N. Heiskell

At the age of 87, J. N. Heiskell in 1960.

At the age of 87, J. N. Heiskell in 1960.

John Netherland (J. N.) Heiskell served as editor of the Arkansas Gazette for more than seventy years.

He was born on November 2, 1872, in Rogersville, Tennessee, to Carrick White Heiskell and Eliza Ayre Netherland Heiskell. He entered the University of Tennessee at Knoxville before his eighteenth birthday and graduated in three years at the head of his class on June 7, 1893.

His early journalism career included jobs with newspapers in Knoxville and Memphis and with the Associated Press in Chicago and Louisville. On June 17, 1902, Heiskell’s family bought controlling interest in the Arkansas Gazette. Heiskell became the editor, and his brother, Fred, became managing editor.

Governor George Donaghey appointed Heiskell to succeed Jeff Davis in the United States Senate after Davis’s death in office. Heiskell served from January 6, 1913, until January 29, 1913, when a successor was elected.

On June 28, 1910, Heiskell married Wilhelmina Mann, daughter of the nationally prominent architect, George R. Mann. The couple had four children: Elizabeth, Louise, John N. Jr., and Carrick.

In 1907, he joined a successful effort to build the city’s first public library. He served on the library board from that year until his death and was issued the first library card.  He also served on the City’s Planning Commission for decades.

In 1912, he was instrumental in bringing John Nolen to Little Rock to devise a park plan. Heiskell was also largely responsible for the location of Robinson Auditorium. When City Council members had competing locations, he advocated for the corner of Markham and Broadway. And kept at it until the site was selected.

In the paper and in his own personal opinions, he crusaded on a variety of progressive causes.  Perhaps the most famous was the Gazette’s stance in the 1957 Central High desegregation crisis.  It was for this effort that the paper received two Pulitzer Prizes.

Although Heiskell stopped going to the office at age ninety-nine, he continued to take an active interest in the newspaper. He began by having a copy of the newspaper delivered to his home by messenger as soon as it came off the press each night. Eventually, he switched to having his secretary call him daily at his home and read the entire newspaper to him. He operated on the premise that “anyone who runs a newspaper needs to know what’s in it, even to the classified ads.”

A few weeks after turning 100, Heiskell died of congestive heart failure brought on by arteriosclerosis on December 28, 1972. He is buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery.  Interestingly, he is buried in the same cemetery as two of his most notable adversaries: Governor Jeff Davis, and segregationist Congressman Dale Alford.

Envision Little Rock finalists part of 2nd Friday Art Night tonight

envisinolrIn celebration of the 100 year anniversary of John Nolen’s 1913 “City in a Park” master plan for Little Rock, the Envision Little Rock design competition sought creative ideas for the establishment of an iconic gateway to the city at the intersection of Capitol Ave and I-30. In 1913, Nolen saw Capitol Avenue as the ceremonial boulevard that would transect the gridded streets of downtown Little Rock, establishing a visual and physical connection between the Capitol building and the proposed Choctaw Depot to the east. The competition challenged the public and professional design community to generate innovative concepts for the eastern terminus of Capitol Avenue in Little Rock.

Tonight, studioMAIN will open their exhibition of the competition finalists. The public is invited to come celebrate, discuss, and vote for your favorites. There are 3 public vote awards, in addition to the two main prizes that will be awarded by the Envision Little Rock jury later this month. Polls close August 31st at midnight.

Come see the wonderful group of entries by local designers and students. This is going to be a wonderful evening of big ideas and discussion of our city’s future. Don’t miss out!

studioMAIN is located at 1423 South Main Street.  The reception tonight is from 5pm to 9pm.  It is one of the participating sites in 2nd Friday Art Night.